Successful appeal as lump sum of £17.3 million is reduced to £5million after ‘Barder’ event

When an event occurs shortly after a financial order on divorce that fundamentally undermines the whole basis upon which the order was made, this is classed as a ‘Barder’ event. When such events occur the parties to the order can apply to appeal the terms of the order, the name ‘Barder’ is used following the leading case of Barder v Barder.

In the recent case of WA v Executors of the Estate of HA & Others [2015] Mr Justice Moor reduced a lump sum award of £17.34 million which was awarded to the husband by a consent order, to £5 million following the ‘Barder’ event of the husband committing suicide just 22 days after the order. Mr Justice Moor described the case as having a ‘tragic history’; the couple were married in 1997. The husband was a lot older than the wife, and the wife was described as being ‘fabulously wealthy’. There were three children of the marriage and the marriage broke down in 2014. The husband took the breakdown of the marriage very badly.

A financial settlement was successfully negotiated following separation which provided for the wife to make a lump sum payment to the husband of £17.24 million in full and final satisfaction of his claims. The order provided for the lump sum to be paid in two separate tranches of £8.67 million with the first to be paid within 14 days of the order and the second to be paid within 14 days of the husband’s mother leaving the cottage she lived in on the family’s estate. The first payment was paid on time and the husband then transferred the money to his mother to enable her to rehouse herself. The second payment was never made and this was initially agreed between the parties however 22 days after the final order the husband committed suicide and his will left his entire estate to his three brothers.

The wife sought to appeal the order due to the fact the fundamental basis of the order was that the second lump sum was required by the husband to meet his needs and this was invalidated due to his death, the wife argued that the entirety of the order should be set aside and for repayment of the monies she had already paid.

Mr Justice Moor felt that the order was capable of being set aside pursuant to the existence of a ‘Barder’ event. However, he felt that if he had been sitting in court knowing that the husband was going to die the award would not have been nil, as the wife was seeking to argue as he would have to consider the parties’ needs and it could not be said that the husband had no needs. Due to the length of the marriage and the husband’s contributions the judge thought it would be reasonable for there to be an award to enable the husband to make payments out of his estate. The judge concluded that a lump sum payment of £5 million (representing a 1/3 share of the wife’s net share in the matrimonial home) would be appropriate.